AKRON, Ohio — A longtime Akron police officer won a $30,000 settlement against the city after claiming the police chief demoted him in retaliation for writing about police use-of-force cases in the union’s private newsletter.
The city agreed to pay 26-year veteran officer Kevin Davis and the police union. Police Chief James Nice also reinstated Davis in the department’s training division and wrote Davis a short apology for improperly demoting him.
Davis said in an interview that Nice’s apology and acknowledgement that the demotion was unfair meant more than the money.
“How do you quantify these things?” Davis said. “No amount of money is worth going through this. I had issues with my blood pressure going up. I’m nearing the end of my career and I should go out on positive note instead of being treated like this.”
Davis said that he was particularly upset about the timing of the demotion.
Nice ordered Sgt. Jeffrey Mullins to tell Davis about the demotion as Davis was driving to his daughter’s wedding. Mullins asked Nice if he could wait until after the wedding to inform him. Nice ordered Mullins to notify Davis immediately, according to the lawsuit.
Davis was demoted to the patrol division despite the chief knowing he had knee surgery scheduled two weeks later. Davis said his bad knee put him, his partners and the public at risk.
“It caused me concern and it was traumatic for my wife and family,” Davis said. “My concern first and foremost was that someone would get hurt because I wasn’t able to do my job with my knee being unstable.”
The demotion stemmed from an article Davis wrote for the FOP Times about police-use-of force and what he believes is inadequate resources allocated to training police officers in Akron.
Davis criticized the city’s decision eight years ago to end it’s own training academy. He wrote that good candidates drop out of the program because they can’t afford training in Columbus for six months without being paid.
The city sponsors the training costs but does not pay the trainees for their time.
“The result has been poorly trained officers hitting the streets of Akron,” Davis wrote.
A judge in Cuyahoga County recently ruled against the union that represents officers in the Cleveland police department after the union raised similar claims about training in Columbus.
Davis’s lawsuit also said that Nice also violated his right to free speech. As part of the settlement, Nice and the city acknowledged officers have First Amendment rights to free speech and that city officials have the responsibility to follow laws “forbidding retaliation against employees who engage in protected activity.”
A message left for Nice at his office was not returned.
“I regret this decision and apologize to you,” he wrote in the apology letter date Dec. 28. “I acknowledge that your overall performance evaluations while you were in the Training Bureau have been above satisfactory during my tenure.”